Protest Music has predominantly had a home in folk music. But now, it’s making its way into our playlists, on to stages, impromptu platforms, on our sound systems, into our everyday vocals.
2019 has been rife with political discourse and dissent. And with the CAA and NRC, it has become widespread in 2020. Music has become a powerful ally in this fight for Constitutional rights. Leading from the front are a number of musicians who have added their voice to the furore. Their songs are a lifeline of courage and hope.
Here’s a roundup of original tracks, revived patriotic chants and classics that stand up to the Man. A soundtrack for the good fight, a lit match in the gloom, a shot of guts in our veins.
Sanda Seivom by Arivu
‘Who are you to tell me who I am?’ is the baseline on which this song thumps out its powerful message. Arivu spits rhymes that states a motherland is not by birthright alone, that NRC is ridiculous for questioning our ancestry, the pointlessness of Aadhar, that all Indians are not Hindus, that all of us are immigrants on earth. This high-energy rap, lucidly and so entertainingly, brings the message and intent of the CAA protesters.
Anti-Indian by Arivu & OfRo
This song was released in 2019 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections when questioning the Government of the day got one slapped with the title of ‘Anti-Indian’. Shots are fired as everything from Demonetisation to the unfair NEET examinations get lined up. And beating all those andh bhakths to the accusation is Arivu who twists around to ask, ‘If I question you am I traitor?’ This is a track urging all of us to question and keep questioning.
Woh Hum Nahin by Ankur Tiwari
A lovely, lilting ballad that is both a tribute to the courage of protesters as well as a wake-up call to all those on the sidelines who are too scared or undecided to stand for what is right. It serves as a reminder of our humanity.
Leaders of Men by Thermal And A Quarter
A trippy, bluesy dig at politicians and their lawless ways of twisting words, truth and facts.
Achhe Din Blues by Aamir Aziz
This folksy mellow tune, with a hint of Dlyan, gets you to slow down and look at the incidents around the nation for what they really mean - religious intolerance, caste discrimination, economic crisis. Aziz goes a touch further to understand why, in a simply stated ‘Dal is too expensive so people are buying hatred’. It’s revealing lyrics such as these that makes us take a minute and ponder what is it that makes us Indians, what is it that this country stands for, what does our Nationalism mean when our own have to dive into filth, and hang for their diet.
Allah Shankar by Osho Jain
At the crux of the CAA-NRC issue is the othering of Muslims. Something that India as a secular country should not stand for. In that spirit, Osho Jain’s peppy song calling for unity, is eminently hummable.
Saffron Ablaze by Armaan Yadav
Returning to the rap form, we have this singeing call to protest. Released in early 2019 as a response to BJP’s chest-thumping rap song ahead of the elections, it dwells on the atrocity of the Kathua rape and the defence of the rapists by those in power. This gritty track articulates the fear of speaking out but the absolute need to do so.
Tukde Tukde Gang? by Madara
So who’s the real tukde tukde gang asks rapper Rahul Negi who performs as Madara. From Modi to Irani, everyone is fair game in this track that minces no words.
Modi, A Message To You by The Ska Vengers
Taru Dalmia & Co. serve us a helping of guts on toast in this cover of Dandy Livingstone’s Rudy, A Message To You. They released this track during Modi’s 2014 election campaign and they make no bones about what they think of him.
Viduthalai by Thaikkudam Bridge
Subramanya Bharathi’s powerful call for freedom against oppression is as relevant today as it was pre-independence. And they come alive in this revivalist heavy metal track.
Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley
Reggae is heartfelt. Reggae is honest. Reggae doesn’t beat around the bush. Marley’s timeless classic urging us to fight for our rights, is a groovy inspiration even after four decades.
Take The Power Back by Rage Against The Machine
Everything about this band is political. Their lyrics are ruthless. Though American-centric, we can agree that politics and the culture of oppression is sadly, pretty universal today.
Jana Gana Mana by AR Rahman
The Mozart of Madras gave us this goosebump-inducing song in Ayutha Ezhuthu. It’s inspiring, and a mirror to what’s going on now - it’s the college students that are taking the fight to the powers that be.
The Times They Are a-Changin by Bob Dylan
If there’s one song that talks to everybody that’s involved from the apolitical to the cautious to the politicians, it is this timeless Dylan tune. It especially seeks out the parents who can’t understand the passionate young who are out on the streets fighting for the India they know and believe in. It beseeches them step out of the way if they can’t lend a hand.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gill Scott Heron
This song is a call for action. And in retrospect, with most TV media choosing sides, how could one possibly expect a fair account of the revolution to be televised? As Heron concludes, ‘the revolution will be live.’ It’s out there. It’s happening. Discuss. Discern. Form an opinion.
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